How to taper for a marathon

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Tapering before a marathon is as important as the hard work you have done so far. Welcome to taper city, taper town or however you want to name the last stretch before the big race. But how do you taper for a marathon? Tapering should start three weeks out before the marathon.

The physical work is done by now. The hardest part now is waiting and maintaining the incredible fitness you have attained over the past months. You goal is to enter the marathon fully rested, primed and ready to rock it. Marathon taper is filled with anxiety and nerves, but trust your training and your performance in training. The balance between maintaining fitness while promoting recovery is the magic here. Read my short guide how to taper for a marathon and the actual meaning of tapering in running.

Taper for a marathon: Overview

Three weeks before goal race

You want to reduce your milage to 85-90% of your maximum

The first week of tapering for a marathon won't be hard and might actually feel relieving because your legs will feel super tired from your longest long run the week before. You want to cut your milage by 15% which is pretty easy. Give yourself an extra rest day, or cut 2 or 3 miles from your long run. It is important to maintain your intensity because psychologically your body takes about 10 days to realize benefits from a workout and recovery completely. Right now you also don't want to eliminate your long run yet. Cut it by 20% and avoid making yourself too tired at this point.

Two weeks before goal race

Reduce your weekly mileage to 70 to 75% of maximum.

Two weeks before your marathon your long run will be much shorter already (by 50% -60%) and your intense workouts which should be your biggest volume days will be reduced as well. If you want to taper for a marathon correctly make sure to practice the medium intense workout on the Monday or Tuesday of this week. As an example if your tempo intervals usually total 9 miles you want to make sure to cut it down to 6 miles only. Your training right now is the hay in the barn. No more fitness will be gained, all you are looking for right now is to keep your hormones stable and maintain your fitness as you go. If you are feeling sore or tired back off even more, take an extra rest day or go for a shorter distance than planned.

The week of the race

The key now is to significantly reduce mileage until race day.

The week of the race you will really feel the tapering blues because you are so used to run and train much that it will feel odd not to lace up and hit the road for several miles. Tapering for a marathon is extremely important for best performance on race day so make sure to have the discipline and confidence to give your body the rest it needs right now. You want to reduce milage by 50% to 60% of their normal volume. Remind your body how marathon pace feels like by doing one mini fartlek session. The last day before the big race I highly encourage you to run 1-3 miles to help promote blood flow your legs and to become less nervous. It stimulates your central nervous system and enables your legs to respond better the following day.

The last week before the marathon all you want is stay rested and being prepared for the big day. You want to sleep eight hours a night and stay off your feet as much as you can. Stress for your body is the killer right now. Calm down, schedule movie nights, start listening to a new podcast and visualize the race you trained for. Running a marathon is a celebration and it has started while you training for it. Enjoy it - embrace it - own it.
Why you can trust Sabrina Wieser
Runningbrina is committed to bringing you unbiased ratings and information. Her editorial content is not influenced by advertisers. Sabrina uses data-driven methodologies to evaluate all products, so all brands are measured equally.
  • Most featured running blog, past 6 years
  • USATF certified running coach
  • Experienced endurance athlete
  • 7 marathons

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